“Yeah, I guess it’s a pretty unique situation,” Ehrhardt said. “As well as my hockey, I’m working for ON:iT, an IT recruitment firm based in Manchester. It’s pretty high-level recruitment, mostly I’m working with one of our directors, handling senior IT developers.”
The leap from playing hockey to helping people accelerate their career trajectory all came about in Manchester. Like many teams in Britain’s Elite Ice Hockey League, the Storm has a partnership with a local college – in this case, the University of Salford – to enable players to combine their hockey careers with their studies. For Ehrhardt, that was a chance to do an MSc in International Business and get to know one of the club’s sponsors.
“In my second year with the Storm they offered me a college package, so I was able to go to the University of Salford,” he said. “Then, through the team, I got talking to Chris Bailey. He’s been a sponsor there for a long time and he’s a director of the recruitment company. After I finished school, we had some talks and discussed a few ideas.
“It wasn’t necessarily something I expected to get into, but after sitting down a few times with Chris we started to see how I could work in two different environments.”
Juggling two roles isn’t always straightforward but having an understanding boss helps.
“Schedule-wise, it’s worked fairly well,” Ehrhardt said. “Our games are usually Saturday and Sunday so that doesn’t interfere with work. With the practice schedule, we have a couple days off each week when I can work a full day in the office. Then the other days we have an early practice so I can come and do a half day after that.
“It helps that the boss is a hockey fan so he’s very understanding, there’s a great balance between hockey things that come up and my work. And it also works the other way – if the recruitment firm needs me to go for a full-day training, maybe down to London or something, the Storm can work around it so I can miss a day with them.”
Ehrhardt’s story, though, is somewhat unusual. Plenty of players in the Elite League are keen to take advantage of the college package on offer, but they tend to be in their 30s, approaching their final playing contract. Ehrhardt is still only 27 and went back to school in his mid-20s.
“Ever since my first years in hockey, people always warned me that it would come to an end someday,” Ehrhardt explained. “I started doing a couple of online college programs then when I came here I got a chance to take it further. It’s especially important for me because I’ve never been in the top leagues, where you might get that grace period after your playing career is over.
“Lots of guys grew up just wanting to be hockey players and never thought about anything else. Then they get to their 30s – especially players who came up through the pro system rather than college hockey – and need to start looking at what comes next. This gives them an opportunity to finish off with college, which maybe they missed when they were younger.”
Although a career in recruitment offers a stable long-term future after hockey, Ehrhardt doesn’t rule out the possibility of remaining in the game when his playing days are done.
“I’ve played the game all my life and I can’t see myself just being out of it completely when I finish my playing career,” he said. “Staying in hockey is always an option but it’s never a bad thing to have something else as well.”
Although Ehrhardt has roots in England – his father grew up in Leeds, there’s extended family in the Nottingham area – the catalyst for his move to Manchester came in Missouri. And once again, that college program played a part.
“In the first instance I came to Manchester because of a friend of mine, goalie Mike Clemente. We played together in Missouri and he talked about coming over to Manchester to do his schooling. We talked and he got me to come over with him.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to play here for two, three, four years, but then I did that first year, I signed on for the college package and things fell into place. When I arrived, I knew that there was a possibility of playing for GB. Going into it, I wasn’t sure, but it’s been a crazy run since joining the team.”
Ehrhardt was part of the GB roster that clinched promotion to the top division in Budapest in 2018, topping Division IA in dramatic fashion with a last-gasp equalizer to set up a shootout win over Hungary in the final game of the tournament. Then he was back in Kosice for the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship last year as more overtime drama saw the Brits beat France in a relegation showdown to survive at the top on their first appearance in 25 years. Not surprisingly, he’s frustrated at missing out this year after the championship in Switzerland had to be cancelled – all the more so, given that his older brother Travis could have joined the roster this time after completing two years with the Glasgow Clan and making his GB debut at February’s Olympic Qualification tournament in Nottingham. Even so, he’s trying to look for the positives ahead of 2021 and the competition in Minsk and Riga.
“Of course it’s disappointing. Every year we get pretty excited about the Worlds. We have some great people on the team and it’s special when we all come together,” Ehrhardt said. “But with the way things are just now, safety has to come first. Even before the official announcement we were kinda preparing ourselves that it might not happen this year. But we all understand the situation and it just makes us more determined to be ready for next year.
“Either one of Belarus or Latvia will be absolutely fantastic to travel to, another new experience. We’ve got a chance to relive all that and a chance to try and stay up in the Elite Pool once again.”